My gut assessment for Tuesday’s election is that there is a 50/50 chance of a grassroots candidate either winning or forcing a runoff.
That may not sound like something over which to get excited, but in all prior elections, the chances have not been as bright.
And just look at the newspaper endorsements. Can anyone remember when so many alternative candidates have received the nod from the major dailies?
David Vahedi gave it a good shot when he narrowly lost to career politician Paul Koretz in the CD5 race in 2009. Vahedi would have been a breath of fresh air; instead, CD5 is represented by a Jack Weiss clone.
Carmen Trutanich upset Jack Weiss for City Attorney that same election, but he could hardly be considered a grassroots candidate.
This year, there are a few activists with a chance of pulling an upset. We can thank Ron Kaye’s LA Clean Sweep for encouraging and supporting average citizens in their bid to return some degree of responsibility and connectivity to constituents.
Stephen Box in CD4 and Rudy Martinez in CD14 probably have the best chances of knocking out entrenched politicians like their opponents Tom LaBonge and Jose Huizar.
The CD4 race has been very civil, but CD14 has been trench warfare with very personal accusations traded (please visit the Mayor Sam blog for the gruesome details of the Huizar/Martinez catfight. You will find numerous postings along with comments that reflect the heated nature of the campaign.)
Voting for Stephen Box is by far the best choice the voters of CD4 can make. Besides his excellent grasp of communications and his crisp no-nonsense style of answering questions, Box recognizes the importance of making structural changes to the city’s budget. His opponents, incumbent Tom LaBonge and Tomas O’Grady, just don’t understand the importance of doing that.
Box is also a veteran of the “No on Measure B” campaign, which still ranks as one of the greatest upsets over a corrupt political regime.
It is worth noting that incumbent LaBonge did not receive endorsements from either the Daily News or the Times. Those endorsements went to Box and O’Grady, respectively.
Rudy Martinez is a diamond in the rough who deserves a shot at the CD14 seat. Whatever shortcomings some say he has, I would trust him far more than Huizar to provide access to the residents. Huizar maintains a “naughty or nice” list of constituents that would have made the KGB proud back in the days of the Cold War.
Martinez also has strong name recognition due to his cable TV show “Flip this House” and his restaurant in the district. He was also endorsed by the LA Times.
CD12 is an interesting race. While it is an open seat, Mitch Englander is an honorary incumbent by way of his role as outgoing Council Member Greig Smith’s chief of staff. He has the Smith machine behind him. Smith himself came up the same route – he served as Hal Bernson’s chief of staff. If Englander wins, he will be anointed Hal III, the King of Englander, and maintain the royal line of succession.
Englander declared “policeman” as his occupation in his filing. To be clear, he is a reserve officer. I wish he would disclose how much of his time is allocated to serving as chief of staff vs. the LAPD. Smith was also a reserve officer, so Englander is copying his resume. I suppose Englander will defend the outrageously expensive Police and Fire DROP program as his boss does. By the way, be sure to watch Smith try to defend the program, which encourages double-dipping by sworn employees, on SoCal Connected.
Englander has an overwhelming advantage over his opponents as far as money goes with $507,000 raised so far. Brad Smith and Kelly Lord, both of them neighborhood council representatives, earned the endorsement of LA Clean Sweep, but another grassroots candidate – Navraj Singh – has raised the most money by far with $57,000 plus matching funds. In total, Englander’s opponents have raised around $160,000 including matching contributions. That cash might be enough to offset some of the name recognition advantage Officer Englander enjoys. Regardless, the challengers have an uphill fight in forcing a runoff.
CD2 is merely an exercise in democracy. I am happy that Augusto Bisani decided to oppose Paul Krekorian only because no one should ever run unopposed. To the extent anyone is disappointed in Krekorian’s performance, Bisani offers the opportunity to express one’s displeasure.
Krekorian has done an excellent job representing his district and is one of the most astute members of the City Council. However, what role he will play in dealing with the city’s budget crisis remains to be seen. Will he simply rubber-stamp another in a long string of fictional budgets, or will he take a stand against irresponsible fiscal management?
If the city heads down the path to bankruptcy and Mr. Krekorian does not fight the policies that have led us to the brink of insolvency, he could face a stiff challenge in his next election.
Perhaps the most interesting race will be the showdown between incumbent Bernard Parks and Forescee Hogan-Rowles in CD8. While Hogan-Rowles is the challenger, she, like Englander, enjoys the trappings of an incumbent – mainly big money. To be specific, big public union money. Her supporters have kicked in close to $1 million including independent expenditures. The County Federation of Labor, Working Californians and the Police Protective League account for the bulk of it.
Parks, by comparison, has received around $700,000 in support from all sources.
While Wisconsin public unions are in a battle over collective bargaining rights, their counterparts in Los Angeles enjoy collective influence rights.
I have my issues with Parks, but I am also opposed to handing the unions another seat on the City Council.
I regret I have not had time to pay attention to the other City Council races. I trust LA Clean Sweep’s judgment and urge you to check its website.